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Sunday, April 27, 2014


WHAT makes you extraordinary?

The rich insist it is the bank accounts (bonus points if a dollar account is involved). The middle class are convinced it is the talents he or she possesses. And the poor are vehement it is the luck that wins the lottery.

Extraordinary, thus being said, would mean billionaires, valedictorians, politicians, cum laudes, and taxi-drivers-turned-business-tycoons—men and women who have blurred the lines between power and struggle. These are men whose blood-stained hands will not be marked with the vengeance of the law because their extraordinariness entitles them the right to pillage the rules. If you are otherwise, you will be sent to jail. If you are otherwise, you can only bend rubber, not the law.

But what makes your friend, classmate, colleague, or neighbor ordinary?

The life of the fairly “ordinary” woman living in Cagayan de Oro goes like this: Several bills are stacked on the dinner table. We ordinary citizens do not have assistants to boss around, so she leaves her house lugging laptops, papers and books like a pack mule, and then stands in the scorching heat waiting for the next jeepney.

Taxi fare is too expensive. The sunlight touches her skin in hot, burning kisses while the strap of her laptop bag presses against her shoulder. When a jeepney arrives finally, she has no choice but to squeeze in her butt cheeks into that miniscule space. Oh, to be ordinary and frugal!

Upon arriving at the bank, she is greeted by a long, menacing queue of fellow “ordinary” people. She swallows. Other branches must have fewer people, she thinks. She is thrown into another round with public transportation, and she figures the sun must be obese after making a meal out of her. When she arrives, she is greeted with: “Sorry, ma’am, but we do not accept cash transactions here.” Can you please reconsider? No, Ma’am, have a nice day.

Incensed, she orders a caramel macchiato at the nearest Starbucks, hoping to vent out her frustration on social media. The barista flashes her a cheerful grin and suddenly her spirits are lifted. She refreshes and refreshes the Facebook app on her phone, only to find out that their WiFi is down. But she could not possibly leave now, not after raping her wallet and not while the guard was eyeing her with a suspicious leer. Oh, to be ordinary and 3G-less!

When she leaves, she shouts “Goodbye, your WiFi is a lie!” but only in her head. Goodbye, ma’am! Have a nice day!

She goes back to the first branch she went to, making a beeline for the express counter. She receives a small slip of paper that says “N283.” The television screen tells her counter 4 is still serving “N152.” She entertains herself by staring at the figures on the screen, blinking and blinking and blinking and dingdongdingdong.

Wanting to kill time, she goes to the nearest McDonald’s for a sandwich, only to be met with a long, snake-like, almost labyrinthine queue of people. Oh, to be ordinary and compliant! She quickly loses her appetite. Defeated, she returns to the bank and continues staring at the figures on the screen, blinking and blinking and blinking and dingdongdingdong.

When at last the screen flashes her number and dingdongdingdong, she makes her way to counter 3. It did not take five minutes to pay her bills. Goodbye, Ma’am. Have a nice day!

According to Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian writer of “Crime and Punishment,” ordinary men live under control and love to be controlled. He obeys because it is the law and breaking the law denies countless people the right to food, shelter, and education.

On the other hand, extraordinary men transgress the present for the betterment of the future. He has the unspoken right to overstep the rules basically because his goals as an extraordinary man will feed thousands of hungry mouths. The former preserve the world and people it; the latter move the world and lead it to its goal.

Some falsities can be said about painting the world in black and white, however. If the world is divided into extraordinary men and ordinary men, how then can we all be equals? “All men are equal, but some are more equal than others,” George Orwell says. Oh, to be ordinary and less equal than others!

Crime, Dostoevsky said, is a protest against the abnormality of a social organization.

Control, on the other hand, is a powerfully scary thing: If every person—every man and woman, boy and girl, student and teacher, senator and saint—would mimic the textbooks, crime would be erased from our vocabularies. Crime as a protest would no longer exist, and we will all be canonized as saints.

Personally, I think there is no wall of distinction between an “extraordinary” and an “ordinary” man; each is under the delusion that he (or she) is any other than human.

What makes you extraordinary?

***

(Maria Karlene Shawn Isla Cabaraban is currently taking up Bachelor of Arts in Sociology-Anthropology at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan. She spends her non-studying hours writing or reading or both in coffee shops. She spends her studying hours hoping it will make her a lawyer someday.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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